Many of us have encountered leaders who believe that their opinion is the only correct opinion that exists and that the opinion of anyone else is rubbish. These are the leaders who live by the maxim: ‘It is my way or the highway.’ I have known, and still know such leaders. A leader who is genuinely concerned about ensuring that his organization can both survive and thrive in the highly-competitive 21st century will always be open to the ideas and thoughts of others. The truth is that one idea coming from a team member could bring about the solution to a problem or cause the turnaround or acceleration that has been elusive. This is where Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) comes in.
For a leader to admit that he does not know everything, requires tremendous strength of character, and high self-esteem. Having high self-esteem is not about being independent of others. A leader with high self-esteem is prepared to admit the shortcomings in his knowledge and experience, but is also willing to build inter-dependent relationships whereby there can be a free-flow of the exchange of ideas. It is ideas that build organizations, businesses and products, and in the absence of shared-thinking there can be no ground-breaking ideas. Only when the leader has the skill and self-confidence to work with his team through collaborative thinking can the very best of the thoughts and experiences of those in a team, division or department be combined to coalesce into solutions that no one person could have thought up on their own. The power of collaborative thinking is its ability to release tremendous ideas that have previously not existed, but this power can be diminished or killed like a flame that is extinguished when the leader does not have the capacity to make it happen. Powerful leaders do the exact opposite – they fan the flame of collaborative thinking in order to bring about significant positive changes for the organization.
Here are 3 habits, taken from the life of Sam Walton who built Walmart into the global retail giant that it is today. You can implement these ideas in order to be a catalyst for collaborative thinking in your organization.
- Always build high esteem in your people. When people are encouraged to produce their best work, and given recognition for their efforts, they blossom. Furthermore, always remember that people are human, and that they have lives outside of their place of employment. Always express sincere interest in the lives of your people, and make an effort to know more about their lives – this will make each employee feel like less of a number or automaton and more like a person. Sam Walton said: “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish,” but more importantly, he lived by this maxim. It is this sort of thinking that made him a successful leader and that made Walmart a resounding success. A great benefit of collaborative thinking is that people feel more valued when their thoughts and ideas are considered. It has been said that employees will do more for recognition than for reward. I believe that the reason for this that each individual is his/her ideas and that our ideas are not just a part of us, OUR IDEAS ARE US. Since we are our ideas we feel a tremendous amount of self-worth when our ideas are considered and even greater when our ideas are implemented. There is a tremendous amount of healthy pride and personal satisfaction that comes from having your contribution recognized and the knowledge that it made a noticeable difference – to be able to say with confidence: “I did that,” or “That was my idea.” This was what happened at Walmart. No idea was rejected for consideration, although not all ideas were eventually implemented, but morale was boosted a thousand-fold or more because middle-tier and upper-tier managers and other employees were given an ear.
- Consider the ideas of others. The leader does not have the franchise on ideas. The most profitable ideas at the majority of companies and corporations did not come from the leader. Walton once said: “Most of us don’t invent ideas. We take the best ideas from someone else.” When the leader is strong enough to be open to new ideas, then the organization will blossom and grow.
- Listen to those on the ground. A key characteristic of a phenomenal leader is his propensity to listen more and speak less. Speaking less is especially important when a decision has to be made in an area of business or a department in which others know more and have more experience than the leader. It is at this time that the leader must listen to the concerns and accept the suggestions of those in the affected division. After all, they are closer to the problem than the leader could ever be, and they will be able to create truly pragmatic solutions to the problem. Walton was a pro at listening to the people in his stores, and he often said: “The key to success is to get out into the store and listen to what the associates have to say.” This is a powerful statement because it infers that success does not come solely from the leader’s contributions but from the contributions of his people. When a leader can implement the habit of listening to his people, organizational success becomes less elusive. However, there is no use in just asking people to comment or to make suggestions, if none of the ideas and suggestions are ever implemented. It is important for the leader to be able to work with his people to receive ideas, and then sift through those ideas and implement the best option among those tabled.In my book titled ‘You Are Valuable’ I provide more useful insights and ideas on building high self-esteem within yourself and others and I also discuss the thinking habits of the most successful leaders. Click here to buy a copy of ‘You Are Valuable.’
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Glisson J. Heldzinger is an author, mentor and coach, public speaker and Christian minister who loves to bring out ‘The Inner Winner’ that is inside of people. Glisson enjoys creating educational material that will excite and inspire the individual to ‘Be all you can possibly be, and have all you can possibly have!’